All in a day’s work: The modern Pakistani (super) woman

Published: July 7, 2013
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She has to go to work as well as take care of her children, in-laws, husband and house chores - the modern Pakistani Superwoman! ILLUSTRATION: IMAAN SHEIKH

If you are a woman who belongs to the circle of society that sees itself as urban and educated, you will most likely find yourself adequately qualified with a degree and then promptly married off within a few years of working. Of course, that is if you managed to put your foot down in the first place to demand that you be allowed to work before marriage.

Upon assuming marital responsibilities, it is but natural that your degree and work are pushed to the back seat, because now you are expected to take on domesticity as your foremost occupation.

Or so you think.

Times have changed. People expect you to take on domestic duties with the zeal of a ‘housewife’ – the perfect home maker. However, they also expect that you do not waste away your academic and professional qualifications, since that would be an injustice to society and to yourself.

In other words, they expect you to be a Superwoman – handling your job, home, children, in-laws, all in a day’s work.

You witness this in everyday interactions with people. ‘So what do you do?’ is a matter-of-fact question asked after the usual pleasantries when you meet a new person. “I am a stay-at-home mom,” you reply sheepishly, thinking of all the hasty assumptions the other person is possibly making about you.

He or she may take you as dim-witted, with no exposure to the outside world, and possibly lazy from sitting at home. Then follows the apologetic explanation from your end – how you live in a nuclear family and cannot leave the children alone; how the kids take up all your time.

It comes across as this: the decision to stay at home and exclusively tend to family is not an active choice of your own. No, instead you must be a victim of your circumstances.

For many women, that, in fact, may be the case. But pretending you never had an option in the first place is often an attempt to conceal your guilt at making the personal choice to exclusively tend to home. It is a means of fending off possible pressure of people judging you on wasting away your life sitting at home.

If in previous years, the society expected girls to take on their post-marital domestic duties seriously, they now expect us to take on the additional responsibility of sharing household expenses as well. We must be making a contribution to society, utilising our academic qualifications in a well-paid job. That is what urban, suave, educated women do! And, of course, in this juggling act, there is no room for failure on the household front. You are expected to return from work and see that the household is in order; from cooking and cleaning the house to ensuring that your family’s physical and emotional needs are met.

In spite of these increased expectations from women, the function of men in the household has not changed much. At the end of the day, they come home from work, expect a hot dinner, a clean house and plenty of rest. Additionally, they expect a working-housewife.

Modern society may have emancipated several women by making them financially independent and intellectually sound, but are our lives any easier than they used to be?

Read more by Mifrah here.

Mifrah Haq

Mifrah Haq

Sub-editor at the The Express Tribune Magazine, Mifrah is a Boston University Alumnus, having graduated in International Relations and International Communication.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.